NEW YORK—A 61-year-old Georgia man was indicted Thursday for posing as an attorney offering immigration legal services, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
An investigation revealed that defendant Wilmer Rivera Melendez offered undocumented immigrants, also known as illegal immigrants, a bogus path to a green card. By manipulating correspondence between the immigrants and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), Melendez actually led the unaware immigrants to their own deportation. In that way, he was able to collect the immigrants’ money and then dispose of the immigrants.
Melendez has been indicted on charges of scheming to defraud, grand larceny, attempted grand larceny, and practicing or appearing as an attorney at law without being admitted and registered.
Between November 2008 and October 2009, Melendez claimed to be an employee of W&R Immigration Services, purportedly a nonprofit organization located in Covington, Georgia. Melendez filed applications and petitions with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) on behalf of undocumented immigrants.
Claiming to be an attorney with approximately 20 years experience, Melendez required that his New York-based clients pay for his traveling expenses from Georgia to New York by wiring money to his account.
When individuals questioned Melendez about their cases, he refused to take their telephone calls and/or changed his telephone number.
According to the District Attorney’s Office, Melendez is not a licensed attorney in New York or Georgia. The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) confirmed that Melendez is not an accredited representative authorized to represent clients before USCIS or the immigration courts.
Melendez’s scheme was perpetrated against at least 14 victims in New York. His crimes include felonies punishable by up to a total of eight years in prison.